Having been here for a full three months now and sadly finishing my fourth, I can proudly say I have made the most of my time abroad in Sydney, Australia. There is a lot to be explored here and unfortunately the truth of the matter is that you probably will be unable to see everything there is to see in the short time you have here. I was lucky enough to see most of my checklist, including New Zealand, Melbourne and Cairns, with a spattering of places within Sydney as well. Although I have less than a month left, I am hoping to squeeze in one last trip to the Gold Coast and Brisbane, although I was really hoping to see the Outback and explore some Bush.
Besides the undoubted urge you will have to explore this part of the Southern Hemisphere, there are a few things to take into account if you should choose to spend your study abroad experience here. For one, Australian colonial history is oddly similar to America. Instead of Native Americans, Australia is home to the Aborigines who have inhabited the land for 40,000 years. Some of the tribes still exist after European colonization, and there is extreme tension between the two parties that are still struggling for resolution today. Because of this, there are racist sentiments that still surprisingly exist here. Now in America, there are of course racial incidents that occur all the time, but the main difference between America and Australia is that there is more publicity and social outcry in the States when such racism happens. The media and the public are quick to voice their opinions about such matters, while in Australia that tendency is still rather weak. The casualness of some racist comments here was surprising to me. I’m unused to such ignorance having come from such a diverse and liberal city like New York.
Another very important thing to take into consideration is the thin layer of ozone protecting Australians from the harmful UV radiation of the sun. If you should choose to study here, it is of the utmost importance to slather on the sunscreen. When I first arrived and spent a day at the beach, I thought I had applied a fairly decent amount but wound up sunburned anyways (you must keep reapplying).
Finally, you will have to get accustomed to first looking right and then left when crossing a street. When I first got here, I nearly got run over by a taxi because I was so accustomed to the other way around. And when renting a car in New Zealand, our friend almost had us killed by an oncoming truck because she looked left and started driving instead of right.
Other than these three main points, there is absolutely nothing to fear or worry about when traveling to Australia. Yes, there are bugs that can get pretty large, but when you are in the city, specifically places like Sydney and Melbourne, you will be fine. And yes there are kangaroos and koalas and crocodiles, but unless you’re visiting the zoo or traversing the Bush or outback alone, you should be completely fine.
I had and am having a wonderful time here and I honestly wish I could stay longer. I have made friends that I am going to be sad to leave here in the land of Oz, but am so happy and grateful to have had the opportunity to meet them and be immersed in Australian culture. You’ll find that should you choose to study here, it is just different enough from America that you will have a refreshingly new and wonderful time.